Thanks for checking out my onOne Software Perfect Photo Suite 7 Review.
Perfect Photo Suite 7 is a great collection of seven products designed to enhance your photos and save time in post-processing. There are a plethora of filters that you can use very quickly to adjust your photos, or you can create some very unique results with advanced techniques using layers, masks, blend modes and other tools to create outstanding results.
You can use Perfect Photo Suite 7 as a stand alone product, but it also integrates nicely with
- Adobe Photoshop
- Adobe Lightroom
- Apple Aperture
Perfect Photo Suite 7: Perfect Layers
Let’s start with some good news. Perfect Layers is free! If you don’t have Photoshop, Perfect Layers gives you an interface that allows you to use many of the most powerful features of Photoshop — layers, masking, blend modes and opacity. With these tools, you can easily perform selective editing of your images, combine images, and create other creative effects that just aren’t possible with Aperture or Lightroom. For those of you who already have Photoshop, Perfect Layers is still worth a look. That’s because it puts a new spin on creating masks. You still have your brush, but onOne Software also includes its masking bug, shown below.
I used a rectangular (or planar) masking bug on this image to demonstrate. You can change the bug to a round/oval shape, also. The antennae on the masking bug let you change its size, opacity and feathering. If you prefer, there are fields in the upper-left corner to make the same adjustments using a slider. That's also where you can change the shape of the masking bug.
You can change the color display of the mask. The top image shows all layers. If I had another image in the layer stack on the right column, it would appear through the mask instead of that checkerboard. In the image immediately above, I switched to a Red mask view. You can also use White, Dark, or the Greyscale example shown below to see a larger view of the mask that appears next to the thumbnail in the layers panel.
Sometimes the bug just isn't the right tool for your mask. You can turn off the masking bug and use the brush instead. Like the masking bug, you're able to control the mask in a few different ways.
The brush stroke at the top is at 100% opacity using a 250 pixel brush and 25 pixel feather. I lowered the opacity of the bottom stroke to 35%. If you're working with a broad area, this works fine. If you're trying to work with some intricate detail, then you may want to use another option.
You can switch the brush to another mode that uses edge detection by checking the box titled “Perfect Brush” on the brush control fields above the image. The brush will look for edges and only mask areas that are the same as you brush with the center symbol (a minus to paint-out or a plus to paint-in). In this example above, I didn't let the minus symbol brush the windows on part of the Capitol building. The edge detection software excluded those areas from the mask. For better results, zoom in and use an appropriate-sized brush for the area that you're brushing.
Edge detection eats up more of your CPU cycles, so turn it off when it isn't needed for better performance. Depending upon your system resources, it could start lagging as you're painting while edge detection is active.
Perfect Layers works as a stand-alone application or as a plugin. You don’t need to have Aperture, Lightroom or Photoshop to use it, but it integrates with those programs. I was a bit surprised to learn that it recognizes Photoshop PSD files and layers. Perfect Layers includes tools to transform, crop, brush and retouch images.
Perhaps one of its best features is that onOne Software now has a unified interface for the other tools in Perfect Photo Suite. If you look at the menu bar on the upper-right side, you’ll see that you can easily select other tools in Perfect Photo Suite within Perfect Layers. That addresses one of the grumbles I’ve had with previous versions of the tools. It seemed that each tool had its own way of doing things. The masking bug was a very useful feature in Focal Point, but wasn’t available in other tools. Perfect Layers has a sense of consistency among the various parts of Perfect Photo Suite.
This interface isn’t complete, though. Perfect Photo Suite 6 started the integration, but it left some tools—Mask, Frame, Resize and Focus—to launch from Perfect Layers into their own window and user interface. Now in Perfect Photo Suite 7, it seems that only Focal Point 2 (Focus on the menu bar) launches its own application. All of the others are nicely integrated within the Perfect Layers interface. That integration is a welcome improvement over the previous version.
PhotoFrame and PhotoTools are no longer products in the Perfect Photo Suite, but their capability (and more) exists in the other products.
Perfect B&W: The New App in the Suite
For most of my Black & White needs, I’ve used Silver Efex Pro by Nik Software. It’s an outstanding tool and I think it sets the bar for any other tool that enters the Black & White market. So how does Perfect B&W stack up against Silver Efex Pro? First, take a look at the user interface.
Perfect B&W has all of toning and color filters you would expect from a B&W product. Silver Efex Pro added borders to its product and this looks like an easy feature to add, given onOne’s experience with Photo Frame. Sure enough, you can see Border are one of the many options in the panel on the right side. There are eight categories of border styles (though one is for textures) and each has multiple options. You can change the size, opacity and blend mode of each border type.
One of the panel options that surprised me was a Glow option. That's not something I've typically seen in a black & white tool, but it's a welcome addition. The Glow is rather easy to manipulate. There are two sliders to range the amount of Glow and Halo, and you can change the blend mode of the glow. Using a Screen blend mode with the Glow can give an interesting high key appearance.
One of the the methods that Black & White users adopted is the Zone system to show the range of detail from black to white. Perfect B&W has a couple of tools to help, but it's probably not as detailed as some may have used in the past.
The first method is to check for clipping on either end of the scale, as shown below:
Blue represents detail lost in the shadows and Red represents detail lost in the highlights. If you click to enlarge this image, you can see just a hint of highlight clipping in the dog's forehead area. In this shot, it's OK for the background clipping to appear because it's supposed to be black. However, this handy display shows that I need to adjust his eyes and snout to bring back some detail that's clipping in the shadows.
The other method is to change the Mask View Mode to Zone, which reveals a grayscale representation of the different detail zones.
Perfect B&W presents you with a nearly complete B&W processing solution. It doesn't have tools for cropping or retouching, but those are available in the free Perfect Layers tool that hosts the interface. Perfect B&W includes some selective brushes:
- Targeted Brightness
- Selective Color
You can use these brushes to paint their effect selectively. The Targeted Brightness tool is a bit different than the other brushes. Instead of painting over an area, you click on an area that you want to change and then drag the tool like a slider to increase or decrease brightness.
As for the Selective Color brush…all I can say is that you should use it with judicious care.
I'm impressed with Perfect B&W. You can use one of the existing presets to very quickly apply a black & white style to your image, or you can take your time crafting the settings to suit your own sense of style. Sometimes I'll start with one of the presets and then tweak things a bit here or there. It makes B&W processing fast, yet personalized. You can save your own presets to use later, which saves both time and your precious memory.
This program is so chock-full of goodies it's hard to know where to start, so let's start with what we've already covered.
- Masking Bug
- Masking Brush w/Perfect Brush Edge Detection
- A Plethora of Borders
- Black & White filters
- Glow Filters
- Integrated with Perfect Layers interface
That's a pretty good start, but there's plenty more. In fact, too much for me to go into all of the various filters. I'll touch on a few by way of example, though. Suffice it to say that you have all the power of layers, blending modes, layer mask, opacity sliders and various effect options at your disposal.
As with Perfect B&W and other products in the suite, you have the option to choose an existing effect and apply it globally or selectively. You can modify the presents or create your own by tweaking and combining existing effects. Once you've created an effect that you like, save it as a preset so you can use it again with minimal effort, time saved, and outstanding results.
In my own workflow, I tend to start with some kind of contrast, enhance the existing colors, and then decide if I want to add an effect like a glow or something grungy. A little sharpening to top it off (though I tend to do that before I add a Glow effect). Let's take a look with a photo that has warm and cool elements.
Here's where we start. The overall image is a bit flat. We have a cool area in the sky and a warm area in the sign and restaurant. Our foreground subject could use a bit of help, too.
My first step is to add some contrast to the whole image. There are plenty of options under the Contrast section of effects, but I tend to like the one called Daily Vitamin. Here's the change after one click to select that effect.
For the next step, I want to draw out a cooler color in the sky. Under the Basic Brushes collection of effects, I chose Brush Cooler. At first, I started using this like a typical brush in Photoshop or Aperture, sliding my cursor around the page to paint in the effect. Here's the result I achieve part-way through.
The good news is that I'm pleased with the change in the sky. You can see some of the original color still in the sky where I hadn't brushed yet just above the ship and near the palm trees on the right side of the image. The problem with this technique is that it can be sloppy. It's too easy to overlap into areas that you don't want to affect, particularly in tough spots like those trees. The sky shines through, but masking out those leaves and palm fronds is really complicated…or is it?
The red area shows the mask that's unaffected by the Brush Cooler effect. Look at the details in those leaves, the string of lights on top of the ship and other places. I can't mask that accurately with a regular brush. However, the Perfect Brush did all the work for me.
When you use the Perfect Brush edge detection, don't paint the brush as you may do normal. Instead, just dab the center on the area of color that you want to change. That's all I did here. I made a 500 pixel brush with a 50 pixel feather. Should be kind of sloppy, right? Not if you turn on Perfect Brush and just dab the spots. Perfect Effects will detect the edges and apply a mask so it only impacts the area that you want.
This is the kind of masking tool I've wanted for a long time. Imagine replacing that blue sky with an image of the perfect clouds. It could be kind of difficult to achieve with all of those trees and complicated elements in this shot, but not with the Perfect Brush.
Once you have an effect the way you like it, be sure to click the Add button to create a new layer before choosing another effect. Otherwise, all of your changes will get eliminated and replaced by the default of the next effect. That's handy when you just want to click through and see one effect after another, but you have to remember to commit the effects you like before adding to them with something else. The Add button in the Effects Stack does that for you.
Now let's see about pulling our subject out a bit. To do that, I added two effects:
- Brush Lighter on her face, skirt and Mickey Glove to brighten them up a bit
- Subtle Vignette to bring down the brightness if the edges
The next thing I wanted to do was enhance the sign just a bit. The colors are already warm, but I thought it was lacking some definition. Part of the problem is the areas surrounding the sign are also a bit flat. I decided to make a subtle change using a Glow. Here's what I did:
- I selected the Angel Glow effect
- Next, I added a round Masking Bug to cover the area of the sign, and feathered it out just a bit
- I inverted the mask so the Angel Glow effect only affected the area covered by the Masking Bug
- Then I licked the Options button in the Effects Stack to bring up the Blending Options
- I set the Apple Effects To: so it only added the Angel Glow to the shadows of the area being masked by the bug
Here's how it looks.
It's a very subtle effect, but an important one. The shadows above and below the sign are a bit darker, which helps separate the sign so it doesn't just blend into the background.
We could go on and on with effects. There are more than I think I'll ever use. What I hoped to show here is just how easy it is to identify problems in your photos and correct them quickly and easily with Perfect Effects. The edge detection in the Perfect Brush is a major step forward in masking. Throw in the combinations of effects and blend modes, and your imagination becomes the only limitation.
I have to let you in on a little secret. When Perfect Portrait came out, I didn't want to like it. That's because I've tried other portrait software before and found the results lacking. I could get better results using rather simple techniques in Photoshop. The trade-off was time spent vs. quality, and I wanted quality.
Perfect Portrait makes retouching ridiculously fast and easy. Just to give an example, here’s a split-view of a portrait out of my camera with no previous editing. I didn’t even touch anything inside of Perfect Portrait, other than to click inside the box surrounding the model's face. This just shows the capabilities of the default settings as soon as I loaded the photo. The original photo is on the left and the Perfect Portrait adjustments are on the right.
Without any work on my part, Perfect Portrait adjusted her skin tone, removed blemishes, smoothed her skin while retaining pores and texture, brightened her eyes, enhanced her lips, and adjusted the contrast. How long would it take you to do that much work? Perfect Portrait did this in a second or two. Now imagine that you have a ton of portraits to edit from a wedding or some event. Instead of dreading the manual labor for each shot, you can deliver very pleasing results in a minuscule amount of time. To me, that’s just outstanding! It really irks me, too. Just think of all that time I spent learning retouching techniques and then applying them, painstakingly, to different portrait photos.
Those little lines you see on the eyes and mouth identify key areas that Perfect Portrait uses to enhance eyes, teeth and lips. You can tell they're just a bit off, but it's easy to move them around.
Al you have to do is place your mouse cursor on the little squares and drag them to change the shape. I've tried this on different subjects and different angles, but they always seem to work.
Of course, some jobs will take more work than others. You may need to use Photoshop for other retouching, such as using the Liquify tool on her hair. Even if that’s something you want to do with your portraits, this is a killer way to get started on the basic retouching tasks for skin enhancement, whitening teeth, removing shine, brightening eyes, enhancing lips, etc.
Perfect Portrait has its effects broken down for Children, Females, Groups and Males. Just as with Perfect Effects, you can load these presets, stack them and use selective editing.
The automatic modes are impressive, but they don’t correct everything that I’d like to fix in a portrait. Fortunately, the tools exist to touch-up where needed. For example, I used the Loupe tool at 400% to get a better view of each eye, and then used the Retouching tool to remove the little veins in the whites of her eye. You can see the difference between the left eye and the retouch on the right eye.
Perfect Portrait is a great time saver and it can produce amazing results. The variables for each element of the portrait can range from very subtle to over the top, giving you the ability to determine how your final portrait appears.
The presets and controls cover the range you're likely to experience in portrait photography. You can adjust for ethnicity, male, female, children or groups. There are presets to deal with shine, freckles and a host of other features found on human faces and skin. Perfect Portrait just makes short work of portrait retouching and does so with natural, believable results. I just want to hate it for that, but it really works.
Perfect Photo Suite: FocalPoint 2
The human eye is drawn towards things that are bright and sharp. FocalPoint gives you the tools to draw your viewer’s eye exactly where you want it to go by providing tools to control these elements. Using the Mask Bug, you can set a blur on your photograph and selectively remove it from the important areas of your image. Let's take a look.
First, here's a photo just loaded into FocalPoint 2. It has a dominant subject, but the background has a bit too much detail that just isn't important.
I decided to use a Planar (Rectangle) masking bug, since my subject fits that size best. You can control some of the aspects by moving the antennae – blur, opacity and adding a dark or bright vignette. There are sliders in the panel to the left for the same controls, so it's up to you to decide which method works best.
Some of the options on the panel aren't available through the bug. You can choose to model a specific type of lens and that will affect the bokeh in the background. I used a custom 9-bladed aperture lens on this image, so you have the ability to tweak the specs to your liking if a preset you want doesn't exist.
Like the other products in Perfect Photo Suite 7, this took barely any time at all to make my changes to the image. Drag a bug, move a slider or two. Done. As you can see from the final view of the image below, this little change directs your eye to the subject and diminishes the distracting background – all done in a few seconds.
FocalPoint also allows you to adjust highlight bloom—such as when you have lights outside the depth of field. You can give them a greater presence with the highlight bloom to increase their glow or turn them into an artistic background element,
Until recently, I never had much use for Perfect Resize. It works fine, but my images from my DSLR cameras were large enough for any print needs I'd experienced. It's not like I'm printing billboards or anything of that magnitude. Then my mother surprised me with an old photo she found of my brother and me. It was a very small, wallet-sized print and it put a smile on my face.
That's my older brother, Don, with the big smile – same smile he still has today. I'm the damn good looking kid with the buzz haircut and the plaid shirt. My mother found two of these small photos and gave them to us as birthday presents. I decided to scan the photo and see what I could do.
The full size from the scan was 597×477 pixels. That’s good enough for use as an avatar, but I started wondering what else I could do with this old photo. That’s when I decided to explore onOne Software Perfect Resize 7.
I was slightly concerned that I needed to learn a new software program to get the results I wanted. That was silly. It couldn’t have been easier to enlarge this photo with great results. In fact, I felt it was absurdly simple. onOne should make it a bit harder so you have more of a sense of personal accomplishment. Enlarging the photo was about as hard as getting $20 out of an ATM.
Once I could see my image, I went to the Document Size panel on the right side. As you can see, I just traversed the menu options to select the 11×14 size under the Photographic menu option. I didn’t want to push my luck going with a larger size. After all, how much would the image degrade after being enlarged so much?
I clicked the Apply button. The screen blinked for half a second and the job was done. That was pretty damn fast! The only thing left to do was click the Save button and give it a name and a file format.
This is now a 3152×4140 image. That gives plenty of space to go in and do more photo restoration—something else I’ll have to try.
Compared to modern cameras with outstanding sharpness, this image may not hold up well technically. When you consider that Perfect Resize 7 gave me such a large image from a worn out wallet photo that’s over 40 years old, I’d say it’s astounding technology. None of that compares to the emotional impact of preserving a memory. All the imperfections in the photo fade away and what’s left is a brother’s love. Now that’s a great thing.
I first saw this software in pre-release demonstrations at Photoshop World. As it happens, one of my objectives for that trip was to speak with onOne Software to get a better idea of how to use their software, at least based upon some problems I had with the previous versions. After watching the preview demonstration, I just kept smiling because this release cleared up many of the problems I had with the old software.
For example, it was hard to decide which effect to use because there wasn’t any preview on my image and the effects had irrelevant names—Kryptonite, Lord of the Rings, Daily Vitamin. You would have to explore each one to really understand how it would apply to your photo and I just didn’t have the time for that. Now the effects have much better organization and a quick thumbnail preview means I don’t have to look at the silly names. Just that improvement was a great step forward. As I demonstrated above, the masking with the Perfect Brush edge detection is nothing short of brilliant because of its outstanding results while being so easy to use.
One by one, I discovered that Perfect Photo Suite resolved most of the issues I brought to Photoshop World, so I didn’t hesitate to buy my upgrade. Perfect Portrait was a complete surprise to me, but a very welcome one.
Perfect Photo Suite by onOne Software is a great package of photo software that is powerful and easy to use. When you think about the combination of quality image processing effects and time-saving features, Perfect Photo Suite is really just a great value.
You can download full versions of the software for a free trial. In fact, there are some free tools and presets on the site just for the taking.